on April 22nd, 2009 at 11:43 am
Why is it so hard for a massive cinema complex to maintain a base quality standard in film audio-visual presentation?
Being Cheapass Tuesday, and currently kid-free, we decided to splurge and blow $20 on "Fast and Furious". We ended up going to Hoyts Carousel, where the screening was in #1 (one of their large La Premier cinemas).
The trailers buzzed by, and the sound quality was a bit crappy, but I'm not too fussed about that. It seems quite common for trailers to be in Pro Logic with the main feature kicking in with digital surround.
The main feature starts, and immediately I notice there's no bloody sound coming from the right side. How?? How can such a prime screen, with thousands of people going through it today, screw up the sound balance so badly? Sure, the centre was still blisteringly loud, but as soon as music kicks in (often prominent left/right, while the centre carries speech & local sfx), there's a wall of sound from the left and nothing from the right!
I mean, I am a bit of an audio buff. I'm not a hard-core audiophile, but I know I spot sound issues a lot faster than most people. But this was just so obviously unbalanced that I'm sure anyone with two functioning ears could spot it! I know some people call this "fussy" - to me this is as fussy as someone objecting to nails on a blackboard is fussy - it really just clashes and unbalances me! It took me a good half an hour to adjust and block the "hole" in the sound-field and start to enjoy the film itself.
Oh, and the picture wasn't exactly the most crisp either. It was ok - maybe the crispness of Bluray on my puny 1080p screen at home has spoiled me. Some of the action scenes were hard to follow, but I don't know how much of that was shaky-cam vs blur vs massive FOV-filling screen. Not so fussed about that compared to the sound.
At home I have better, properly (in comparison) calibrated sound, and a great, crisp screen (albeit not as FOV-filling), a pause button and cheap refreshments - why am I at a Cinema? Because this movie wasn't out on Bluray for rental yet, and we wanted to see it.
Not all Cinemas have problems - I wonder if that is because some of them actually hire people to maintain and test their gear, or maybe their gear is still functioning as it was when installed. Reading Belmont have had a good quality track record (given the many Swancon screenings I've gone to there), and Hoyts Freo have always been good (newer Cinema, only been there a few times).
The movie itself was enjoyable - tough guys, fast cars. Some annoying shaky-cam for some on-foot chase scenes - every film should really have a rollerblading camera man (see Crank!). The company was tops, and after we had a lovely meal, so all in all the evening was enjoyable.